[deck]Auditioning for Playboy meant abandoning her religious upbringing and discovering a personal set of principles. [/deck]
[cap]A[/cap]s I reached for the latest issue of Playboy magazine on the magazine stand of the local Borders bookstore, I felt a mixture of emotions; I felt curious, excited, and a little naughty. I timidly glanced at the cover and the gorgeous, half-naked young woman wearing a racy pink tank top and a sugary smile. Feeling like a mischievous young girl about to peer under the lid of an imaginary Pandora’s box, I couldn’t help but playfully smirk right back at her. I fantasized about the “evil” and “offensive” things I had always been told were lurking among the forbidden pages of such publications. After years of prohibition, I was curious to find out. “How bad can it really be?” I thought as I made my way toward the cashier, shrink-wrapped adult media in hand. I felt an amusing sense of rebellion as I handed my debit card to the lady behind the counter.
The casting call encouraged the girls to embrace their 'inner Playboy' and to just have fun for the camera.
Before that day last fall, I had never laid my hands on a single issue of Playboy. I was barely 23-years-old but already a completely different person from the timid and confused young girl who graduated high school in 2004. Had I picked up such a publication back then, I would’ve been horrified. “How could these women do such a thing?” I would’ve thought. “Doesn’t it make them feel worthless to be selling their bodies?”
Leafing through that first issue in a corner of the packed Borders coffeehouse, I was fascinated by the stunning women— many of them around my age—who looked happy to provide their luscious curves for the viewing pleasure of millions of readers around the globe. And to my surprise, I found myself wanting to do the same.
My decision to attend a recent Playboy casting call was a complex one. After all, appearing in a risqué publication raises many controversial yet intriguing issues about women. Would I be selling myself short? Are the nude females among the glossy pages merely sexual objects? What the hell would my family think?
I was raised in a fundamentally religious household, and I knew auditioning for Playboy would be an outright dismissal of everything the Mormon Church taught me about my body. The idea of physical purity is one of the most preached about and restrictive practices in Church doctrine. The Church has rigid guidelines telling its members how to dress (the rumors about “Mormon underwear” are true), date, groom (a limit of one pair of pierced ears for women, hair above the shoulders for men, and no body piercings or tattoos), and to remain chaste until marriage. It’s not surprising the perceived message from the Church is to hide the body.
Our home was no different. In our sheltered community on Oa’hu’s North Shore of 5,000 citizens—most practicing Mormons—my younger siblings and I lived a ritualistic life in a home that functioned like a religious business: three-hour services on Sundays, daily scripture study, family prayers three times a day, and communal religious activities at our local chapel on Wednesday evenings. Everything we did was meant to please our number one customer: God. My loving and God-fearing parents barely talked to us about sex, puberty, or anything of a carnal nature. Instead, “wait until marriage” and “dress modestly” comprised most of my sexual education.
Unlike anything I had ever been exposed to during my youth, I saw among Playboy’s pages the possibility to explore a compelling and taboo subject.
Had I even remotely entertained the idea of appearing nude in front of anyone except my “eternal companion” as a Mormon, I would have been told I needed to feverishly repent for such sinful thoughts.
Ericka persues a past Playboy issue while waiting for her audition. Playboy representatives saw about 40 girls over the two days of casting in Eugene.
When I decided to leave the Church five years ago, I also left behind the ideology that my body was meant to be unacknowledged. For once in my life, I wanted to do something that would go against the years of being told that my choices regarding my body were the concern of anyone else’s but my own. By deciding to take a gamble and pose for Playboy, I saw an opportunity for me to explore this evolving attitude of learning to adore rather than ignore my body.
As I sat there sipping a coffee and admiring the satiny female nudes on the pages in front of me, I marveled at the world of difference between the religiously trapped adolescent I once was and the undaunted, edgier woman who was now willing to—literally—reveal herself to the world. I realized this braver, gutsier gal would’ve never been allowed to emerge had she continued to seek the approval of religion or family. Although liberating, my decision to audition for Playboy would summon feelings of guilt and obligation from my past.
“You better think about what you’re doing to our family name, and your mother,” my father angrily said to me over the telephone a week before the casting call. He’d just heard about my Playboy endeavor through the family grapevine and called me to confirm whether this shocking rumor was true. When I shamelessly admitted it was, and that I didn’t tell them because I knew they would be offended by my decision, he was livid. His moralizing tone reminded me of feeling helpless, resentful, and trapped as a religiously controlled teenager once again. I thought about my mother, and how I love her more than anyone in the entire world. But I’d also grown to love myself. I suddenly realized I had reached a point in my life where I would never again let guilt or fear of damnation manipulate me. I had done that for 18 years, and I’d had enough. “Dad, I’m happier and more confident than I’ve ever been in my entire life. You are not going to take this away from me.”
Ericka is an electronic media major within the UO Journalism School.
While it hurt me to be the source of disapproval and pain for my faith abiding parents, I realized my decision to learn to embrace myself by auditioning for Playboy was exactly that—mine.
And so on April 12, I walked into a casting call as the most confident and happiest woman I’d ever been.
“You have a rockin’ body,” Jared Ryder, a professional photographer with Playboy said to me. When I tell him I’d been preparing for this audition for months by committing to a challenging fitness routine, he replied, “I can definitely tell.”
There, in front of f lashing camera lights in a local hotel suite—in the nude and totally at peace with my female body—I found myself thinking it wouldn’t matter to me if I was chosen for Playboy. What matters is that at the end of this journey, I had experienced the liberation and the power that only come from taking risks. I started on this Playboy project with curiosity and in search of a freeing adventure. At the end, I discovered a confident, fearless young woman ready to conquer the world and never look back.